Interview No. 049: Ralph A. Clevenger
Date: April 24, 2010
About Ralph A. Clevenger.
I grew up on the coast of North Africa and began diving in the Mediterranean Sea at the age of 7 with my father. I went on to study zoology at San Diego State University and then attended Brooks Institute of Photography. Today I live in Santa Barbara, California where we operate our free-lance photo business and I teach at Brooks Institute.
I have followed my passion for the natural world by specializing in location photography and video projects of wilderness eco-travel, natural landscapes, wildlife and undersea subjects. I’ve been fortunate to travel throughout the world on assignment for clients like Islands Publishing, Fox Sports Network, MacGillivray-Freeman Films, and many others. Ralph’s stock images are represented worldwide by Corbis Images.
Check out my website for more info about me : http://www.ralphclevenger.com/
1. What makes a good photo for you?
For me a good photo connects at a very subliminal level. I just like it. It’s probably a combination of subject, composition, lighting, and the „decisive moment“ that the photographer captured. Nothing new here but not easy to get all that in a photo.
2. What do you not like in photography at all?
I’ve never really thought about this. Photography is such a subjective medium that I’m not sure I have an answer. One thing that surprises me about a lot of creative endeavors is how lazy people can be. Instead of being creative and coming up with their own ideas they just copy what’s popular.
3. Which book helped you most in the development of your photography?
Creation by Ernst Haas, The Art of Seeing by Derek Doeffinger, By Nature’s Design by Pat Murphy and William Neill, The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide by John Shaw, On Being A Photographer by David Hurn and Bill Jay.
4. Which internetlink would you advice other photographers?
I think there’s some great sites and blogs, especially for advanced amateur
and professional photographers, like Rob Haggart’s, www.aphotoeditor.com;
Charlie Borland’s www.pronaturephotographer.com; and informational sites
like Tom Maddrey’s www.eclipseinstitute.com, David Hobby’s,
www.strobist.blogspot.com; and Richard Anderson’s www.dpbestflow.org.
5. How would you describe your photographic style? What is characteristic
about your photos?
Color is a strong element in most of my work, which is kind of interesting since a lot of my work is done underwater where everything is blue. At least until I add flash. I was strongly influenced by Jay Maisel and Pete Turner, both masters of color.
6. What was your most intense photographic experience?
Well, the great white shark that hit our cage and bent the bars was intense. The rhino that charged us and the driver had to drive backwards as fast as he could. Diving under ice floes in Alaska to photograph small amphipods that eat everything they find, including the only exposed part of my body, my lips.
7. What is your favourite tool/equipment when you are taking photos?
My shoes, if I have the right shoes I’m more willing to go anywhere to get the shot. My tripod because it makes me slow down. My „plamp“ because it acts like an assistant, which I seldom have. My multi-purpose trash compactor bag keeps my equipment dry and cool, and protects me from stuff on the ground. Wireless flash systems and high ISO capabilities. Wireless flash systems open a world of creative possibilities, and high ISO allows me to shoot into the low light times that most animals favor. I talk about all these things in great detail in my book Photographing Nature.
8. Who is your favourite photographer/ your photographic idol?
I’ve already mentioned a few in previous questions but I’ll add Ernest H. Brooks II, George Lepp, Craig Aurness, and Jim Brandenburg.
9. What is in your fridge at the moment?
A ton of stuff, my wife is a wonderful cook as well as my business manager. Fresh fruit and vegetables from the local farmer’s market, some excellent beers and wine (also local), some awesome BBQ sauce from Pescadero, California, Alaskan wild salmon, and more.
10. What is your favourite music/ your favourite musician?
I like all types of music. Today I’m listening to Jack Johnson, yesterday I listened to Slightly Stoopid and Santana. I even listen to classical and African music. And I love blue grass, Cajun, and New Orlean’s jazz.
11. What advice would you give to an ambitious photographer?
Just take pictures. Learn the difference between looking and seeing. Look at pictures all the time, look for pictures all the time, and have fun. If you want to make photography a profession learn the business. Business is the most important part of being successful. Apprentice with a professional or go to a school where you can learn business, marketing and then photography.